‘John’ has wined and dined both existing and potential clients.
Sometimes, the outings are held in some of the best hotels in Singapore. Other times, these gatherings are conducted inside the confines of a KTV room with hostesses aplenty.
These affairs are done with only one thing in mind – to impress his clients and secure that deal.
“Entertaining clients is expensive but a necessary evil. Making clients happy is one of the priorities of my job,” admits John (not his real name), an executive in his 40s working in the advertising industry.
He insists that these “perks” are not kickbacks. Instead, they are just gifts to help “sweeten the deal”.
He could spend more than $2,000 at these outings.
“We take them out and show them a good time, all in the hope of landing that all important contract, so what is wrong with that?”
The practice of entertainment for business is now in the spotlight following the revelation earlier this week that two top civil servants are being investigated under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
It is believed that no money is involved in both cases.
However, the close relationship between Mr Peter Lim, former commissioner of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), and Mr Ng Boon Gay, the former director of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), and a female IT executive was a cause of concern.
Both men – currently out on bail – were arrested following allegations of “serious personal misconduct” and have since been replaced at their agencies.
The question now is – when does the business of entertainment cross into the domain of corruption?
Lawyers told The New Paper that the law on this is quite clear. Gratification also need not come in the form of cash or gifts, they added.
“If you put yourself in a position where favours can be obtained in exchange for a service,” then that can be classified as graft, said one lawyer who declined to be named.
This entertainment-for-business strategy is not one without controversy.
In 2003, The Sunday Times reported many doctors in the private and public sector were being targeted by drug companies out to compete for business, reward loyal customers or reel in new ones.
In most cases, these doctors would receive first-class air tickets and stay at five-star hotels overseas.
These perks raised questions about how much influence drug companies wield over doctors.
Executives TNP contacted deny any wrong-doing.
“These extras are what some customers have come to expect when sales people start pitching for business,” said one manager.
“If we don’t do it, our competitors will and we could lose the business as a result”.
But as lawyer and former district judge Edmond Pereira pointed out, civil servants are held by a different standard because “the civil service has a protocol for its officers to follow when dealing with vendors”.
“If a private sector employee is entertaining a civil servant over a tender issue for example, then that is questionable,” said Mr Pereira.
“If that happens, then there is a presumption (of impropriety) and the onus is on the officer to show to the authorities that he did not receive any benefit for corrupt purposes,” he added.
Code of conduct
According to the rules of the Singapore Public Service Commission (PSC), all civil servants are required to observe a code of conduct which covers – among other things – gifts and entertainment given to them.
Infringement of the code of conduct may lead to disciplinary action being taken against the civil servant. Disciplinary control of civil servants is exercised by the PSC, an independent body established under the Constitution which does not come under the purview of any Ministry.
The penalty arising from disciplinary action ranges from a reprimand to dismissal.
According to media reports, it is believed Mr Ng and Mr Lim have admitted during questioning that they had improper relationships with the woman implicated in the scandal.
The Straits Times had also reported that the woman is with an American multi-national company.
A source said her colleagues were always surprised the woman could secure these government contracts.
TNP also understands her supervisor is now under the spotlight for approving her expenditure when entertaining government servants.
-The New Paper
[[[ *** RESPONSE *** ]]]
Perks become graft when special extra-governmental posts beyond Prime Minister and President, like ‘Senior Minister’ and ‘Minister Mentor’ are created that give the post holders 4 million + in salaries, 10 times what Pres. Obama gets from USA. a country with GDP 100s of times greater than Singapore has.
Perks also become graft when government posts pay the highest salaries in the world 240 times average wage instaed of 10 to 30 times (30 times is already quite excessive) average wage at most . . . and the officials still need KTV trips as incentive even though salaries are already extreme.
See below chart for salaries :